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Big time Carbon Monoxide Scare and our Peerless boiler

tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
edited December 7 in Carbon Monoxide Awareness
Hi, Stumbled across this site, trying to figure out what went wrong for us this weekend.
I'm a new homeowner & not savvy yet in all the things you guys are.
We moved in this summmer, have baseboard heating and got our Peerless boiler tuned up about a month ago. (Boiler is from 2010). Was told everything was fine. Then we had to relight the pilot a few times as it was going out. Late Saturday night we relit it and went to sleep. 10-25 minutes after relighting it, carbon monoxide detectors went off. We opened door to boiler room to see what was up and boiler seemed to be overheating. It was very hot in there, smelly and boiler was rumbling like crazy. We turned it off and called 911. Fire department arrived almost instantly and said our CO levels were 600 ppm.
We called back the plumber who did the boiler tune up and he said he could find only one issue- safety was missing between two little wires hanging off the front of the boiler (I forget the name of that safety), and he replaced it- but he said that still didn't explain why we got the CO levels we did. He checked exhaust by watching a flame get sucked into it & said that didn't seem to be a problem. He got it running again and said we should be "fine for a while."

Since he said that the issue he fixed didn't fully explain what went wrong- I'm scared this could happen again.

I did find that there was a half-melted plastic bottle of "Raid Max Bug Barrier" lying under the boiler and asked if that could explain anything and he thought No.

We discussed with our contractor, architect neighbor & the prior owner of our house who is also a contractor. All had different suggestions, (bigger fresh air intake, double-walled flue, replacing something at the top of the flue bc prior owner said he got cold back draft) but everyone basically said "but that doesn't explain why you had CO flooding in."

Any suggestions/thoughts? Should I call in a different plumber? A chimney person? Some sort of engineer?

Thanks so much, and apologies for my lack of sophistication about this.
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Comments

  • KahooliKahooli Member Posts: 94
    If the boiler room had high CO and an excess of heat, your exhaust was not going up the chimney. Checking draft pressure and chimney cleanliness is step 0.
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Member Posts: 636

    Thankfully you had the brains to have working CO detectors in your home!

    If you're having to constantly re-light the pilot.... maybe your are getting reverse drafting from another chimney, vent, fireplace, etc?
    Flue and or chimney could be partially blocked and your exhaust is being pulled out from the boiler ?

    Any high winds, or other odd meteorological conditions present when the incident occurred? Fireplace or wood stove burning maybe?

    A competent burner tech should be able to verify your draft and render an opinion on your chimney.

    Do yourself a favor and purchase several CO detectors that have digital displays (if you don't already have them). Too many people have "dumb" detectors that don't show the actual CO level detected and just add to the 2am confusion.
    There is a huge difference between 50ppm CO and 600PPM CO!
    I've found the Kiddie (4AA Bat) units with display to be excellent and they never false.





  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    Thanks guys! We subsequently have bought the CO detectors that do have readers on them and they are saying "0" for now, phew.
    We don't have a fireplace, wood burning stove, and the flue/chimney top is not close to anything else.
    I can't remember what the weather was like here late Saturday night (I'm in Brooklyn) but will check that out. The prior owner said he did periodically get a cold backdraft and needed to replace the top of the flue- sounds like that could be a problem again?
    I just tried googling "burner technician" as that was recommended by one of you. What came up was oil burner technician- They have burner technicians for gas boilers too? And that someone's different than a plumber who specializes in boilers? What kind of company do I reach out to to get one of those?

    Thanks again so much
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Be afraid, your contractor is a bozo. Checking the drafthood with smoke is antiquated and misleading. What he proved was that room air was going up the flue not flue gases. A draft test proves about the same thing. If the levels outside the boiler were 600ppm+ then the boiler was most likely making 10X that amount. Anyone working on equipment today without a combustion analyzer should be charged with negligent endangerment.
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 1,641
    Why would you call that plumber back? Many plumbers (your plumber) don't understand combustion and venting. You'll need to find someone who does.

    "...He checked exhaust by watching a flame get sucked into it & said that didn't seem to be a problem. He got it running again and said we should be "fine for a while."..."

    This is a sign of a hack. No draft test, no combustion test, no checking of electrical components.

    At the very least he should pull the flue pipe and give the chimney a visual inspection to make sure it's clear. Better would be a chimney sweep with a camera to check the integrity of your chimney.

    If that's clear, and working properly, then you can get back to the boiler, with a proper tech, doing proper diagnostics.

    You could be underfired and low flue gas temps. You may not have enough combustion air.

    Also be aware of things that can cause a backdraft down the chimney. Especially new super efficient clothes dryers, as well as exhaust fans (bathroom/kitchen)
    steve
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    edited December 7
    Ok that's helpful! Who do I hire to do this testing- a chimney person, another plumber, etc..? I just want to know what to type into Yelp to get the right person :)
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Not a chimney person!!! Call and ask if the service techs have a combustion analyzer and have been trained on how to use it.
    Where are you located?
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    Didn't see last comment before I posted. Ok first step sounds like I call a chimney person and make sure they have a combustion analyzer & do camera work. That sound right?
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    It is the boilers fault more likely than the chimney! If there is something wrong with the chimney it is because the boiler never worked correctly in the first place. Believe it or not there is no industry standard or Code for verifying equipment safety. This is strictly voluntary.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    Brooklyn. If any of you are nearby you have the job!
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    I hope someone on here jumps in. However, there are several companies I trained in the area 10+ years ago and they may still know what to do. Gateway Plg, Jay-Ell or All HVAC.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    I really appreciate all this input. Thank you all.
  • unclejohnunclejohn Member Posts: 993
    Sounds like he replaced the roll out fuseable link. The reason that you have too replace that is it's a one and done and you need to fond and correct the problem. Most likely a sooted up boiler.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 2,852
    The first thing I would do is call a reputable chimney sweep. Ask around for refrences. Have the chimney checked bottom to top. Tell him about possible backdraft and that you had Co issues.

    You need a qualified gas service technician. No offence to any plumbers who are qualified but yours is not. Check find a contractor on this site. Your are lucky their are several in your area
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,955
    No one has mentioned it but is this unit running and you are still living in the house? Shut it off and get a trained professional to check it out. Do not leave it running.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    It is running again since the plumber came back Sunday. We got a CO reader that we have sitting directly next to boiler now and it's been consistently at 0, but that idea of shutting the boiler off til the problem is really resolved and fixed does sit better with me.
  • Erin Holohan HaskellErin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 474

    No one has mentioned it but is this unit running and you are still living in the house? Shut it off and get a trained professional to check it out. Do not leave it running.

    I agree with Tim. Please be careful. You can find a pro here: https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    President
    HeatingHelp.com
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Member Posts: 636
    tiitii said:

    ...We got a CO reader that we have sitting directly next to boiler now and it's been consistently at 0...

    Press and hold the "Peak Level" button to show levels below the alarm threshold.

  • GWGW Member Posts: 2,659
    “Call and ask if the service techs have a combustion analyzer and have been trained on how to use it.”

    Well that’s a real kicker. It may come across as condescending.

    Just say you’ve had some CO issues and you’re hoping to have a technician out that have experience with those types of diagnostics.

    You’re correct in that “burner technicians” refer to oil burners, it’s how the jargon works. You don’t want a burner tech, per se.

    Captain CO, is that Jim?
    Gary Wilson

    Wilson Services, Inc

    Northampton, MA
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    Ok- I held the peak CO button and it's still zero (we purchased the kind that measures CO levels only after the scare).
    Now we have a chimney company hopefully coming out tomorrow and I reached out to a contractor on this site too, mentioning about the need for a combustion analyzer. I also sent an email to Peerless seeing if they'd chime in/send someone. Hopefully one of these routes leads to a solution.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Yes Gary, Captainco = Jim
    The CO Alarm should be upstairs where you are not next to the boiler. Just yesterday 1 person was found dead and 4 poisoned and their alarm was going off. They don't go off very soon. I have seen alarms next to equipment making CO in the thousands and they didn't sense it. CO rises very quickly into the house.
  • GWGW Member Posts: 2,659
    Jim glad to see you’re doing your thing
    Gary Wilson

    Wilson Services, Inc

    Northampton, MA
  • GWGW Member Posts: 2,659
    edited December 8
    Tiitii how many stories is your building/home? You may have too much draft. Like everyone said, this is a distinct segment of the trade, a vast minority has good knowledge of this topic. Good luck and maybe shut off the boiler at night at least

    Shoot I mistyped
    Gary Wilson

    Wilson Services, Inc

    Northampton, MA
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Always. I believe just because you have a parachute doesn't mean you know how to skydive.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    We live in a 3 story brick row house. I don't know if this is also something to take into consideration but our "fresh air" intake hole is really into a glassed solarium off the back of our house so it's not really full open fresh air. I'm attaching a picture showing the back of the house displaying solarium and chimney up from the boiler if that figures in. Unfortunately it's dark as it's night now.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    edited December 8
    It was the spill switch the boiler tech noticed was missing when he came back after the CO scare. Sounds like something that would have been good to notice during the tune-up :(
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 1,641
    I don't like that chimney. Gets ice cold during the off cycle.
    steve
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Reminds me of a job years ago at a YMCA. Had a furnace connected to a 6" B-Vent that ran 50' up the outside of the building. The furnace was in a wide open area with plenty of air but the space was negative compared to outdoors. When a furnace is idle the inside of the flue (air) gets cold. This furnace had severe downdraft during the off cycle and took quite some time to heat the air up inside the flue after the furnace came on. This caused excessive roll-out and was melting the wiring.

    I recommended a draft inducer in the flue. However because the furnace had a drafthood and was not connected to the flue, the drafthood had to be eliminated and a barometric installed in its place and a safety spill switch. The inducer had to come on before the furnace fired (air proving switch). Now just for the fun of it, I disconnected the inducer after the furnace had fired for 2-3 minutes. The draft with the inducer running was over -.12" W.C. which exceeded the barometrics ability to control. The draft in the flue without the inducer was -.08" W.C. The B-Vent was still cold but the air inside it was not. Rather than keeping the inducer running the whole cycle, I had the contractor add a temperature limit to the flue and when the flue temperature reached 250 degrees the inducer turned off and the air switch was taken out of the circuit. The furnace worked flawlessly ever since. Odd situation, odd recommendation but understanding how draft and venting work it becomes quite simple. Flues get blamed for so many problems they don't cause!
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    Wow guys it's hard finding someone with a combustion analyzer. No luck so far. Will keep at it. We do have a chimney person coming sometime today though.
  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Gateway was supposed to have one?
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    Still waiting to hear back from Gateway
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    edited December 8
    Looks like A Real Good Plumber can do it and they'll come out today.
    Chimney guy said our chimney sucks & he doesn't understand how it ever met code.
    Good times!
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Member Posts: 636
    tiitii said:

    Wow guys it's hard finding someone with a combustion analyzer. No luck so far. Will keep at it

    That's sad.....

    Is it any wonder these companies don't install/recommend mod-cons? God forbid you try to better yourself.... :'(



  • captaincocaptainco Member Posts: 310
    Don't know what your chimney guy is talking about? But if he can make a few bucks I am sure he will make something up.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    edited December 9
    Well, things with boiler tech #2 livened things up. First, though I requested specifically someone with a combustion analyzer, the person who arrived did not have one on him. Nonetheless, he still did a whole lot more and seemed to have many more ideas than the first guy.

    Summary (and apologies if I get some of the jargon wrong):
    1st he noticed fortuitously that our dryer exhaust vent tube was full of water, and that as a result the dryer was not exhausting either. He drained it into a bucket. This dryer vent was just put up very recently as we just got our basement finished. He explained that the vent seemed to be too long, and it must be getting too cold in its outdoor path that it was turning the exhaust steam back into acidic water, and because of the shape of cellar and that there was a dip in the vent, water collected in the dip, which is obviously no good.

    On to the boiler. He fired it up, and immediately noticed there was too much heat spill coming off the front. He was surprised the new spill switch didn't activate. He said ok let's give it some time, the spill might decrease as the chimney warms up. It didn't. What really shocked him was that with the boiler going full tilt for a while, the very bottom of the exhaust tube right on top of the boiler stayed "ice cold." He said that should be the hottest pipe in the house. He removed the cover to show me the draft hood and stuck his hand far inside & said he should not be able to stick his hand in there like that- it should be too hot. Instead it was just hot at the front. He said that the boiler was clean and there was no blockage he could see to explain why basically no exhaust was going up the exhaust pipe. Then he measured the pressure by puncturing a hole into the pipe & putting in a device. The pressure was the opposite of what it was supposed to be (positive instead of negative right?). He said it was .01 in whatever wrong direction.

    He checked the thing that turns from vertical to horizontal and that was fine. Flames seemed fine.

    What makes me confused is that if the exhaust is not going up but instead out into the room- why is the CO Meter still reading Zero while this is happening?

    Alright we went up to the roof and looked at the venting stack. He thought it looked to be in bad shape, tape hanging off it, etc. He thought that the actual piping seemed to be fine and as far as he could tell it was double walled on the outside of the house. So he said step 1, he thinks should be an H shaped cap.

    He also looked at the fresh air hole and thought it was inadequate- it is 4 inches round and has two thickish wires running through it, and again it goes into our solarium sort of under a bench. He thinks a bigger grate might be better. Meanwhile he thought the actual boiler room might not be tight enough from the rest of the basement (there seem to be some missing cinderblocks near the ceiling separating boiler room from storage space).

    He said another possibility, if necessary, to facilitate the exhaust is an inducer (? I think that was the word)- a little fan in the exhaust pipe to help pull the exhaust up. He said it might not be necessary depending on the effectiveness of the other steps.

    He definitely seemed puzzled a bit by the whole situation and so he said he wants to consult with his boss more about it, but these were his initial findings.
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    He also pointed out that the front cover over the draft hood area was basically singed from the heat coming off. It was browned instead of the green of the rest of the boiler. I'll take a couple pictures
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 2,852
    Disapointed that he didn't have an analyzer, but with the backdraft the analyzer is moot at this point.

    Sounds like he is knowledgeable. Hope they follow through and stay on top of this. Your cold stack, make up air etc are causing your issues.

    Be very cautious running this until completely resolved
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    No one thinks the Raid bottle had anything to do with anything?
    Our architect neighbor had the following idea after talking to an engineer who told him the issue is either venting or cracks in the boiler (to me it's a scary idea). The architect fancies that it was the Raid bottle that might've been what tipped the scales (with backdraft etc) initially to produce an extra hot flame & the high CO levels. He said "it was like throwing gas on a flame"
    Here's his idea-
    He says turn up the thermostat up very high for an hour or two hours. Then he had some theory about depending on what parts (boiler body and various positions on the flue) are then hot or cold or temperate, this will diagnose what the issue really is.
    I said I don't want to die. He said well we'll check on it a lot and you have ten thousand CO detectors now.

    Terrible idea, right?
  • tiitiitiitii Member Posts: 35
    To boot, he wants to charge us three beers and a pizza to try his suicidal idea together
  • FredFred Member Posts: 5,712
    At this point your goal should be to minimize the use of that boiler until a Pro can identify and correct the problem. Running it for a couple hours is likely rolling the dice. The Raid can isn't the issue. It didn't explode did it?
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